Home Middle East Pressure Mounts on Europe for Coordinated Response to Red Sea Crisis

Pressure Mounts on Europe for Coordinated Response to Red Sea Crisis

EU diplomats in Brussels engage in discussions about a new mission for the region, but details remain unclear.

by Lafin

US-led strikes against the Houthis in Yemen have highlighted the European Union’s perplexed response to the Red Sea crisis. Diplomats from the EU gathered in Brussels to discuss a potential mission aimed at safeguarding international shipping in the region. An EU diplomat acknowledged the clear need for some form of protection for vessels navigating the Red Sea. Conversations regarding the specifics of this mission are anticipated to continue in the coming weeks, with a potential decision expected next month.

The EU’s response to the conflict in Gaza has faced internal divisions, and these challenges persist as the crisis extends to the Red Sea. The Houthis’ declaration of intent to target purportedly Israel-linked commercial ships in an effort to pressure Israel into a Gaza ceasefire has led to disruptions in ocean freight rates. Ships are opting for longer routes around South Africa to avoid potential dangers in the Red Sea.

In response to nearly 30 Houthi attacks since November, the US initiated a naval mission named Prosperity Guardian. This coalition, comprising over 20 countries, aims to deter such attacks by intercepting drones and escorting commercial ships. However, some EU countries, such as Spain, have opted out of joining the mission, despite being publicly listed by the US as participants. Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles emphasized a sense of responsibility and commitment to peace, stating that Spain’s position is to refrain from intervening in the Red Sea.

Denmark and the Netherlands have emerged as stronger backers of the US response, participating in Prosperity Guardian and publicly supporting US and UK bombardments on Houthi military sites. The Netherlands, uniquely among EU countries, provided military support in non-combat form and sent two staff officers to Prosperity Guardian. Germany, a crucial player in the EU, did not join Prosperity Guardian but extended political support to the strikes, maintaining a separation from the US-led naval mission.

A representative from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Houthi attacks on civilian merchant ships, branding them as a flagrant breach of international law. The representative stressed the attacks’ threat to global trade routes, harm to German and international security interests, and the imperative need for them to cease immediately. The representative confirmed that EU countries are currently engaged in discussions about potential options for a defensive EU mission to protect international shipping and ensure freedom of navigation for maritime security in the Red Sea.

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